Forest and sea. East Coast and West. Cubicles and ocean. Fishing and retail.
Those may seem like opposites, but in the case of native Cape Codder Tracy Sylvester they are wrapped up in one individual.
Stephanie Sykes remembers meeting Sylvester for the first time last year when they were in Washington D.C., Sykes flying from Cape Cod, Sylvester from Sitka, Alaska.
They spent hours in various legislative offices, talking about how important the Young Fishermen’s Development Act is to the industry’s future. Sykes was impressed by Sylvester, who had her two children, then 2 and 6, in tow.
“This woman is a boss,” said Sykes, who was fishing full-time then and is now the program and outreach coordinator at the Fishermen’s Alliance.
Commercial fishing: Professional, personal and political
Commercial fishermen invest a great deal in their businesses, both in terms of money -- boats, equipment and crew to name a few expenses – as well as time -- marketing, selling and scouting, again to name just a few tasks.
They also invest in the industry’s future, weighing in on myriad edicts that make commercial fishing one of the most heavily regulated industries in the country.
So when Congressman Jared Huffman, D-California, took his Magnuson-Stevens Act listening tour to New England – albeit virtually on account of the pandemic – Captain Eric Hesse was there.
Hesse, representing the Fishermen’s Alliance, was appreciative of the chance to share thoughts.
“We all have things we think about and we muse about as we spend our time on the water and certainly accountability in New England’s groundfishery is one of those big issues for me,” Hesse said.
A century of haddock captures the American fishing experience
As the Fishermen’s Alliance is now working with food banks and pantries around New England to provide nutritious, delicious haddock chowder to people having trouble putting food on the table, we began to wonder about the history of haddock, the role it has played in the region’s history, why it has always seemed to be even more popular in New England than elsewhere.
The tale begins exactly a century ago, though elements of it feel as modern as today.
Cape Cod Ferments is launching fermented fish fertilizers, which are available through Delicious Living, and the first few batches are made from fish heads and fish carcasses that, since they couldn’t be used for bait, were just going to waste.
Now, thanks to Nicole Cormier and Nicholas Frechette, the fish waste from Salt Seafood Company and Hatch's Fish Market is working on its second life as a fertilizer for farms and gardens across the peninsula.
We love the idea because it’s even better than grassroots, it’s born of fish and turns the idea of waste on its head. Plus the idea of local fish helping local farms appeals to us. Check out this gallery showing how the fermented fish fertilizer is made using Korean Natural Farming practices.
It’s called Amendment 23: Why the push for ‘full accountability’
By John Pappalardo
People old enough to remember 1968 tell me that for upheaval, crisis, confrontation, and angry division, the year we are living through now most closely resembles that momentous one. My guess is that history books will agree.
In a far smaller, more specific way, when people reflect on New England’s fisheries years from now, they might also see 2020 as an historic, fulcrum moment. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but if this “Amendment 23” just passed by the New England Fishery Management Council accomplishes what its proponents hope, it’s possible that people will see this as the beginning of a profound transition toward a healthier and more bountiful industry.
The main objective of Amendment 23 is to create what regulators and scientists call “full accountability.” That might be a fairly easy thing to do on the floor of a factory, where everyone is working side by side and a car is rolling down a production line. But at sea, trip by trip, each boat a world unto itself, weather playing havoc and the ocean anything but an assembly line, “full accountability” is a tough standard to define, let alone enforce.
Yet many have come to feel it is essential to building and rebuilding our groundfish industry, which begins by rebuilding our fishing stocks.
The reason why full accountability is so important is that without it, fishing regulations become a sham. So do fishing quotas, which are the key way we try to keep fishermen on the water now, and avoid destroying the future by decimating stocks.
Without stopping the old practice of hiding and discarding fish because scientists tell us they shouldn’t be harvested until they can recover, we can’t make headway.
Without leveling the playing field (if such a thing can be done at sea), without supporting captains who fish honestly and cleanly, we reward the wrong kind of effort.
We don’t give the best captains or the fertile ocean the opportunity to succeed.
There are different ways to accomplish this idea of full accountability. Human observers can join boats on trips, writing down what they see. Cameras can be mounted to record what comes over the rail without intruding on privacy in the wheelhouse. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages. There is now money available and political will to say that one way or another, pretty much 100 percent of New England fishing trips should and will be monitored.
This might sound like a heavy-handed, Big Brother approach. But on the West Coast, full accountability has been in place for years for many fisheries. That fact alone might not explain why in general West Coast fisheries are recovering better than ours, but it can’t be discounted either.
The other important point is that here in the East, we’ve been working on trial programs to put cameras on boats. Almost two dozen captains have stepped up and voluntarily done so, and guess what? By and large they are the best of the fleets, successful hardworking fishermen who see a future for themselves and the next generation in accountability. They don’t see electronic monitoring as an ankle bracelet; they see it as proof that honest fishing works.
In banks, hospitals, casinos, even gas stations, cameras are now a part of work and life. For all the natural resistance to having them be part of fishing, the real challenge now is to make them work for us, not let them invade privacy but use them to protect the public’s investment. Because that’s what the fishery is, the public’s investment and the public’s resources. Fish are part of the common wealth, hunted in the great commons called the Atlantic. If ever there was a place where care and accountability should be exercised, this is it.
Here’s hoping that one day we’ll look back at this tumultuous year and see that we found more than one way to define common good, come together, and make progress.
Last week we had 40 households join us for a unique virtual Meet the Fleet and Donor Appreciation event. A special thank you to Jesse and Abby Rose of F/V Midnight Our for sharing their scallops and on-the -water knowledge with us, and to Chatham Bars Inn for sharing their farm-fresh ingredients for the delicious recipe. Chef O’Brien of Chatham Bars Inn Tavern led the group in an informative cooking demonstration. The next virtual Meet the Fleet with cooking class element will be November 19. Visit our website for more information and to reserve your space.
The Chatham Merchants have put three giant pumpkins throughout Chatham, one of which is on the lawn of the Fishermen’s Alliance, and we’re encouraging folks to guess the weight. Winners receive the giant pumpkin, a Fishermen’s Alliance tote and a gift certificate to a local business! Click hereor scan the QR code in front of the pumpkin in order to make your guess. The contest runs through November 10.
Final call for the Haddock Chowder Raffle Giveaway! Donate $25 or more online and be entered in to win a case – six large containers – of the haddock chowder.
On the Water
Ever wonder how a boat, or a fish, got its name? Want the word on what people are catching --- or how to cook it?
Halloween is just days away and to add some levity to what will surely be a different holiday this photo of Scott MacAllister's boat - skeleton crew - by Christine Walsh Sanders Photography should do the trick. Also read our story about fishermen's superstitions here.
On the Shore
This community thrives in large part because of a constellation of non-profit organizations and engaged businesses.
Our fishermen members are plenty busy earning a living and advocating for the industry. They also sometimes get involved in science and even rescue missions. For example, lobsterman Rob Martin was able to help the Center for Coastal Studies and the New England Aquarium free an entangled leatherback turtle. Martin’s work with rope designed to release rather than tangle a whale was highlighted by the Aquarium for National Seafood Month. Read more here
We want to thank our friends at Mainsail Events and Marketing for their ingenuity, creativity, and versatility over the last several years. Quintessential Cape Codder Jenn Allard and her staff are up for any challenge in the name of community. They offer consultation and design services as well as marketing, social media management, and business concierge services. They love all events, but their specialty is fundraising, working with non-profit clients to create memorable experiences through innovative design. They bring the FUN to fundraising and have been producing the Hookers Ball for the last four years. Check them out here.
The Fishermen’s Partnership Support Services has been there for the industry for more than 20 years. Most recently, the nonprofit was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Cape Cod Foundation to help fishing families in Barnstable county. This grant was made possible by the MA COVID-19 Relief Fund which appointed the Cape Cod Foundation to select non-profit leaders to reach communities in need. With support from community partners, the fishermen’s partnership delivered aid to 99 individuals from 46 fishing families on Cape Cod in September. Read more here.
On the Hook
We do a lot of reading, searching through the wide world of fisheries, and often find intriguing pieces to share. In the old days, you might call this your clipping service.
Cape fishermen were the first to try cameras on boats to improve accountability to help fish and fishermen. Close to fifteen years later, regulators approved Amendment 23 which requires 100 percent monitoring. Read about what that means, and why cameras may help on small boats, in this Cape Cod Times story.
One of the funders of our haddock chowder program is proud of the initiative. Read why, and about the project that gives fishermen a fair price and provides delicious, nutritious meals to food banks, here.
This unexpected news out of Falmouth talks about how there will be far fewer oysters next year because the pandemic drastically cut down on planting by the shellfish department.